If you are someone who is always on the lookout for what’s new in sustainability, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, and even helpless. There is always new research coming out about the negative impact of products and activities that may be a part of your everyday life. Whether you feel guilty about your wardrobe’s impact on the planet, or the impact of your diet, car, or shopping habits, you may know it’s time for a change. While it’d be quite difficult to make your lifestyle completely sustainable, you may find it simpler to focus on one area of your life at a time. By tackling one area at a time, you can make simple changes to your daily routine that you can continue as you focus on new lifestyle areas.
First, let’s focus on sustainability for your diet.
The food industry is full of waste. In the United States, it is currently estimated that 30-40 percent of our food supply is wasted on a regular basis (1). Some food goes bad before it’s ever brought to market, some food isn’t kept at the right temperature and has to be thrown out, and some food is thrown away after the consumer buys it and waits too long to eat it. While you may not be able to impact every stage in the cycle, you can make a conscious effort to limit your waste.
Read on for three challenges to practice food sustainability. You can try them all, or pick and choose what works for you and your family.
1. Pantry Clean-out
This challenge works better for a single adult, or an adult couple. This is a great challenge for the beginning of the month, or even the beginning of the year. The rules of this challenge are simple: you can’t go grocery shopping until you eat or clear out everything from your pantry, fridge, and freezer. This challenge requires you to be creative, as you may not have the ingredients on hand for the meals you typically make. By clearing out everything from your kitchen, you will become aware of what foods you have no issue eating, and which ones may not need to be a part of your regular grocery list.
2. Meatless Mondays
Most people have heard of the Meatless Monday trend, but many may not be aware why people choose to follow it. For one, cutting meat out from your diet is good for your health. Opting for plant-based protein, rather than meat-based, benefits your heart and kidney health, and also can help you maintain a healthy weight (2). Cutting out meat also has great effects on the planet. Raising, feeding, and transporting livestock requires a lot of resources. You need resources to tend to the land the animals are raised on, food to feed them, and plenty of carbon emissions are then used to transport the meat products to their respective grocery stores. Rather than pledging to be a full-time vegetarian, you can choose to be plant-based once a week. By the end of the year, you will have spent 52 days plant-based, which will cause a positive impact on both your health, and the environment.
3. Shop local
While it can be difficult to shop local for everything on your grocery list, it shouldn’t be difficult to do so for your produce. By making a conscious effort to buy your fruits and vegetables at a farmer’s market, you will be making a big impact on your community. First, you’ll keep that money circulating within your community, rather than letting it funnel back to a big, corporate company. Secondly, you’ll be enjoying fresher, more ethical produce. You can even talk to your local farmer about their practices to ensure you are making the best choice for you and the planet. Also, you’ll be cutting back on carbon emissions in the grand scheme, as you won’t be participating in the consumption of produce driven or flown in from far away. You don’t have to look local for all of your food, but produce is one that is typically easy to do. Even if your local farmer’s markets aren’t open year-round, pledging to shop at them for their open season will still make a positive impact.